Who knew the MPAA was in the movie marketing business? Twin Dragons, according to the ratings agency, is PG-13 for, “Non-stop martial arts action/violence.” It almost seems pointless to have that critic quote on the front stating, “Action packed!”
Even the MPAA handles this one better that US distributor Miramax (Echo Bridge for this Blu-ray), slapping a violin into Jackie Chan’s hand for the poster despite the Hong Kong action star never so much as touching one in the film. It must have been too difficult to piece together the grand piano John Ma (Chan) actually plays.
This is a sort of two-fer though, Chan doubling up as the concert pianist and a gruff mechanic who were separated at birth. Those two different lives converge for a gag that seems to be running on fumes almost immediately, with tired swap-ins, mistaken identity, and loosely handled plot devices.
Twin Dragons is simply sloppy, rife with glaring continuity errors, choppy editing, and quite honestly, it’s almost too flashy considering the material is so forced. Set design seems to supersede the action, particularly a club melee involving a microphone stand. Creativity feels stunted until the finale inside a car testing facility, stunt work finally rising to Chan’s abnormally high standards and the fights carrying the ingenuity Chan loyalists demand.
The MPAA, for all of their supposed careful consideration, actually muff this one, Twin Dragons more intent on pushing forward with gags and comedic blunders than rapid-fire fisticuffs. Non-stop doesn’t suit this 1992 brawler’s action, and by the time it reached the States post-Rush Hour, it was infinitely more dated too.
Effects work with super-imposed Chan’s staring each other down with inadequate eye lines and shaky edges are all passable given their era of origin. It’s that dub (unsurprisingly) that just dips Twin Dragons further into mediocrity, lines not only making little sense but played up for laughs that were never intended. That, or they’re “enhanced” for American sensibilities. “My balls are everywhere!” just seems to sum it up better than any other.
You can purchase Twin Dragons on its own, or paired on a single disc with Supercop. Either way, the encode is identical. Regardless, pushed onto a BD-25 together with another movie or not, Twin Dragons fares better than some of the other Echo Bridge Jackie Chan clunkers, even though the encode is starved and compression is barely passable. In other words, saying it’s “better” is all relative.
The grain structure is routinely irritated by the encoding (the film given about 10GB of total space), if not enough to completely take over the image. Twin Dragons at least looks like a film stock. What’s lost is general definition, medium shots collapsing from the lack of refinement and a master that looks pulled from 1999. Close-ups are dull, lifeless, and murky, unable to find their mark until a heated finale where (finally) some HD-worthy detail flashes onto the screen.
Print damage is severe, and in the beginning, almost seems intentional. Twin Dragons begins in 1965 with black & white footage, the stream of scratches, dirt, and specks adding to the age and atmosphere. When they continue through the entire piece, it’s suddenly not so charming. Clearly, there’s zero attempt at restoration or clean-up.
Colors also have a DVD-like facade, flesh tones flushed with reds and primaries saturated with a little too much oomph. With the first fight staged inside a seedy restaurant, red lights bleed out onto the faces and carpeting. The whole thing looks like you’re watching it on a tube TV with color set at max. There’s no sense of control or subtlety, and that goes for the entirety of Twin Dragons’ presentation.
Labeled as uncompressed, the lack of fidelity and clarity within this stereo outing might as well lower it to a generation prior. There’s nothing to this DTS-HD mix other than a stale, tinny flatness. Source material doesn’t help, the dub seemingly recorded in various conditions and at wildly different times. Some characters sound like they’re speaking from the interior of an abandoned factory, others more contained in a proper studio environment. And that’s in the same conversation.
Much of Twin Dragons sound lies in the arms of classical songs, piano keys strained or scorched from their age and dwindling standards for care. A concert lacks precision, pushing instruments together without any audible separation and murky set of drums that are practically lost.
A handful of stereo-specific effects will spread things out slightly, including a street shoot-out/car chase and the rumble inside the car factory. There are a handful of position-specific audio cues to announce that yes, this is a legitimate stereo mix. Until those happen, it might as well be two-channel mono.
If you find an extras menu, let us know. Maybe Echo Bridge just forgot?